Can May top '07's surprise success?

Marketplace will need to expand

By Pamela McClintock
March 9, 2008

Last year, box office pundits predicted big trouble because three tentpoles were skedded for May -- "Spider Man 3," "Shrek The Third" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" -- and it didn't seem possible that the marketplace could sustain that sort of pace.

They were wrong. Each grossed more than $110 million in its opening weekend and eventually crossed the $300 million mark at the domestic box office.

Studios and exhibs said the powerhouse May performance proved the marketplace is capable of expanding, provided there are movies people want to see.

If summer 2008 is to work, the marketplace will need to expand again.
The May sweepstakes are harder with four tentpoles. Two are franchise wannabes, "Iron Man" and "Speed Racer," and two are sequels, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

That's in addition to five other wide releases: "Sex and the City," "What Happens in Vegas," "Made of Honor," "Midnight Meat Train" and "The Strangers."

That's 23 films in 31 days, all competing for eyeballs. And it's especially notable, because a decade ago, May was a wasteland as far as summer tentpoles were concerned. Now it's jam-packed, raising the question if "summer" will one day start in April.
The trio of sequels in May 2007 offered titles that were presold. This year's quartet offers one sequel ("Narnia") that is targeting a slightly different audience than the first one; two titles that are well known to fanboys ("Iron Man" and "Speed Racer") but are untested as films; and one sequel that's 19 years after the previous edition, but is the closest thing this summer to a sure thing -- "Indiana Jones."

Aggressive and clever marketing campaigns will be required. Paramount and Marvel have been plugging "Iron Man" since last summer's Comic-Con. Disney took the unusual step of buying "Narnia" ad time during the Super Bowl -- hardly the demo for Mouse House fare -- to get out the message that the second film is scarier and could appeal to older kids.